An innovative clothes dryer the BreezeDry, a large cabinet that air-dries clothes, like a clothesline indoors netted Grimm Bros. Plastics Corp. two awards at the SPE Thermoforming Division's 2010 parts competition.
Grimm, of Wapello, Iowa, won the People's Choice Award and the Judges' Award at the competition, which was held during the Society of Plastics Engineers division's Thermoforming Conference in Milwaukee.
One other company won two awards. Tegrant Alloyd Brands Inc., in De Kalb, Ill., picked up silver in the roll-fed industrial and roll-fed medical categories.
Bret Joslyn, chairman of the parts competition, said 29 different companies from the United States, Canada, Belgium and New Zealand submitted 38 parts. We just had some very technical parts on the thin-wall side and highly creative parts on the heavy-gauge side, he said. Joslyn is chief operating officer of Joslyn Manufacturing Co. Inc. in Macedonia, Ohio.
A BreezeDry displayed at the parts competition looked like a plastic armoire, complete with two large front doors and a bar for hanging clothes. But this appliance doesn't just hold clothes, it dries them.
Grimm Bros. invented the BreezeDry, and manufactures it as a proprietary product that has its own website, said CEO Brent Dobbs. It took five or six years of R&D work, he said.
Grimm Bros. first introduced BreezeDry at the 2009 International Builders Show.
According to the company, the BreezeDry brings the crispness of air-dried clothes indoors, without the stiffness of a clothesline, or the shrinkage and damage from traditional clothes dryers. Grimm Bros. claims it uses 90 percent less energy than a traditional dryer. Equipped with an internal fan, it is designed to use indoor or outdoor air.
Grimm makes all the thermoformed parts, using vacuum forming, pressure forming and twin-sheet thermoforming. Allen Extruders Inc. provides the sheet. The material is Bayer MaterialScience LLC's Bayblend polycarbonate/ABS blend.
The doors are twin-sheet thermoformed, then foam filled to create a rigid, sound-deadening enclosure. The doors are then painted. The main cabinet is a deep-draw vacuum formed part measuring more than 4 feet wide, 6 feet tall and nearly 2 feet deep. It has an acrylic finish. Front air vents are pressure formed with multiple undercuts, then painted to match the doors.
Dobbs said Grimm recently purchased two small-tonnage injection molding machines, to mold the bezel for BreezeDry's electronics, plus other components for other thermoformed parts. In mid-2010, the company bought a larger, 500-ton injection press, he said.
Parts competition winners were honored at a dinner on Sept. 19 during the conference.
Products are judged for creativity, originality, design complexity, surface finish, secondary operations, technical difficulty and innovation.
Here are the award winners:
Vitalo Group of Meulebeke, Belgium, took the gold for a tray to handle injection molded medical parts in an automated work cell. Vitalo used high-pressure forming of amorphous PET to make the tray, which has a series of 230 ridges each with a draw ratio of 1.4. Inner moving parts of the tool release the tray's sides during descent of the tool.
Tegrant Alloyd Brands picked up silver for a packaging case to hold a Bluetooth headset using paperboard and thermoformed PET, which replaced an injection molded case. An interior part is made from 30 percent post-consumer PET.
The insert is three-dimensionally trimmed for a good fit, and the entire package is easy to put together. The thermoformed parts also cut the cost of the package by 60 percent and reduced shipping costs, according to Tegrant. Thanks to the simpler design, lead time was reduced to three to four weeks for new products, down from 12-16 weeks.
The Perfecseal unit of Bemis Co. Inc. grabbed gold with a package to mold and protect a surgical instrument during sterilization and shipping. The customer, Ascent of Phoenix, reprocesses and remanufactures medical devices through partnerships with hospitals.
The designer eliminated a separate retaining component, used to hold the surgical tool in place. That was done by a snap-fit design using strategically located, aggressive undercuts to help in stripping the tray from the mold and assist in removing the product from the tray. Gussets were added to reduce flexing in critical areas and keep the product from dislodging in the tray.
Perfecseal, of Oshkosh, Wis., thermoforms the package from glycol-modified PET. Nine surgical devices of differing sizes can fit in this one tray. The design cuts the primary packaging materials by 19 percent, by weight.
The silver went to Tegrant Alloyd Brands for its PVC packaging to protect pipettes, which uses interference ribs on the sleeves to secure the product and an improved snap feature to retain the sleeve securely around the perimeter of the product racks. Also, four snapping features keep the blister secured. Tegrant integrated clearance for injection molded tray locks.
The customer was Thermo Scientific, a maker of medical and science diagnostic testing devices, which wanted to replace an existing part.
Lindar Corp. won the gold for a clamshell package designed to hold, display and transport a single decorated cupcake or muffin. The package includes fingers to hold the baked-good product, so it is presented in a plate-like manner while the hinged lid creates an under-glass appearance.
The package can receive display labels on special flat areas on the lid, the back of lid, the back of the base and the bottom of the base.
Other features include a new snap closure and an easy-open feature. Lindar, of Baxter, Minn., offers the package in several materials: APET, recycled PET (post-industrial or post-consumer) and Ingeo polylactic acid resin from Natureworks LLC.
EverEdge IP Ltd. of Auckland, New Zealand, picked up the silver for the CrushPak food packaging that allows the customer to gently squeeze the package to access the contents, without the need for a spoon. CrushPak is suited for foods like yogurt, condiments, jellies, puddings and sauces.
Unique concertina-shaped walls provide the squeezable function, as well as increased strength. EverEdge said the package can deliver material savings of up to 25 percent using materials already used in yogurt containers like polystyrene or polypropylene.
Brentwood Industries Inc. of Reading, Pa., grabbed the gold for chrome aftermarket bumper cladding for the new Chevy Camaro, Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang. The part is made of chrome-paint film laminated to a thermoplastic olefin substrate. A special forming process maximizes the consistency of the chrome look and gives exacting dimensional tolerances.
Brentwood said the thermoformed parts have a lower system cost than dip-chrome, injection molded parts from ABS or PC/ABS, and eliminate issues with weight or corrosion of chrome metal. The cladding is applied with double-sided tape, so there's no need for drilling, adhesives or clips that can break, the company said.
Plastilab Technologies of Quebec City cycled away with the silver for the high-end Vorttice aerodynamic bicycle helmet, thermoformed out of PC. The design required several undercuts on the mold, for the front ventilation hole, ears position, and a concave hole and convex claw on the sides. Plastilab used an aluminum, temperature-controlled tool with three removable inserts.
The thermoformed part is inserted into an injection mold to bond it to the expanded polystyrene. The plastic sheet is screen-printed with several colors before forming requiring accurate thermoforming.
Heavy-gauge pressure forming:
Specialty Manufacturing Inc. of San Diego won the gold for an enclosure assembly to house the drive and control system for a portable medical treatment device, plus arm covers for use by the patient.
The company pressure forms the parts from custom-colored acrylic/PVC sheet, using machined aluminum female molds that have acid-etched texture. Internal undercut sections combined with computer numerically controlled trimming produces a snap-fit design, with no need for mechanical fasteners or adhesives.
Profile Plastics Inc. of Lake Bluff, Ill., won silver for a machine cover, part of a multipart assembly for an enclosure of a high-priced, low-volume industrial test machine. Tools are machined directly from the computer-aided-design file. A fine uniform texture is acid-etched into the tool in lieu of painting. The material is a flame-retardant Kydex sheet.
The required dimensional fit is controlled by machining the back side of the part, also from the CAD file. PVC blocks are bonded on after forming, then precisely machined to ensure precise points of attachment.
The gold went to Allied Plastics Inc. of Twin Lakes, Wis., for a snowmobile part: a front bumper with an air silencer intake assembly, thermoformed from high-molecular weight polyethylene sheet. The part originally was designed for injection molding, but the process was changed to twin-sheet thermoforming because of lower volumes and high costs for injection molds.
Allied uses plug assists to help with the material distribution on each half of the tooling. That allows narrow, deep-draw features, while not sacrificing part quality. The plug design also allows for a lower starting thickness, reducing part weight and cost.
There was no silver award winner in the twin-sheet category.